Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Maxx (YouTube clip 1/12)

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Sam Kieth's The Maxx issue by issue or youtube clip by youtube clip as the case may be. For more in this series hit the label at the bottom of this post.]

ThomasDaTubeEngine is my new hero. You know what Mr. T.D. Engine did? He put the Maxx Cartoon on YouTube -- all of it. The Maxx cartoon, done for MTV, is a very faithful adaptation of the comic book -- basically all the dialog is here, and the animation is minimal so that it looks exactly like the comic book as often as possible. Even the shapes of the panels are recreated in parts. I do not know how long this will be up for, but as long as it is I am going to use this for my primary material, because life is better in youtube clips.

Everything about the opening, including the weather, tone of voice, and location, suggests the self-serious monologues of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns -- "its wet, dark and wet" is a pretty good description of the imitators of those books, and "dirty kind of, but real too" is exactly what they thought of themselves. Then he starts talking about Cheers and you know this is not Watchmen. For me the gag has not gotten old, and it is followed by another brilliant one -- well I don't know if it's brilliant, but it gets me every time: the Maxx's monologue, which includes exposition for the scene, turns out to be speech: "Sometimes it's luck that saves them, sometimes it's fate, but sometimes it's ME!" "Yes, and sometimes its us. Freeze." And that is the very first appearance of this character for those that did not get the Darker Image preview thing. Brilliant.

Gone gets a surprisingly scary intro after that joke, and importantly negates the Maxx's attempt to save the woman. The heroics and speeches are all wasted, and the Maxx is a failure right from his first appearance. This is not the defeat to be corrected in the finale that is so common in superhero books -- this is supposed to be the bit where our hero is introduced fighting low level street thugs in an alley, where he can show his stuff and be cool, like Batman. And it is totally reversed. That reversal sets up the bigger one coming in the comic book: significantly more than Morrison's X-Men, the Maxx never was a superhero.

The scene in the outback suggests this too: superheroes are mostly creatures of the city, but the outback scene makes it seem like he is a fantasy character displaced. And again his big moment is undercut: "Who writes this crap?" is Julie's first line.

Kieth does a great job with intros. Julie has no money, tries to help people, and dresses "kinda like a hooker," because she is a Paglia feminist -- as seen in the Paglia poster hanging on her wall: she is sexy, but also in charge of herself. She has no patience for a police officer's suggestion -- prompted by a college professor importantly -- that her outfit sends out the wrong signals, signals that might attract a rapist and murderer like Mr. Gone. And of course she is sexy in a particularly ridiculous comic book style outfit. Again, the basic superhero comic book stuff is here, but in a slanted way. Instead of the grim and gritty superhero monologuing about Nietzsche (the Maxx is too dumb to know Nietzsche), you have the sexy comic book girl with the Paglia poster. The fact that the Maxx is a failure is important -- Julie is really our main character. She is the one that saves people (people like the Maxx) and she is the one who will needs saving, but not the kind of saving the Maxx can provide.

That is not the end of the first comic book, but it is the end of the youtube clip, so I will save the rest for next time.


James said...

But... but I bought the issues!

(I haven't started them yet, but I'm actually really looking forward to it. Kieth's art is great.)

Christian said...

Those YouTube videos have been up for over a year now, so they probably aren't going to get taken down now.

And I was actually more entertained by the TV show than the comic to be frank.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is great!

I saw bits and pieces of this when it came out, and was intrigued, but never more than that. Then, when I saw the comic, I thought it was an adaptation of the show!

Doug M.

Jason said...

I really loved the show a lot, but I must opine that the one gag that worked much better on the page was the parody of the Wolverine-style first person narration (popularized by a guy named Claremont, if I'm not mistaken). I remember watching the show with friends and them being a bit confused by that joke -- not so much what happened but why it was supposed to be funny.

But any comic-book fan would've gotten the target of that bit instantly. It was, as you say, such a perfect way to puncture the self-seriousness of early-'90s superhero comics.

Streebo said...

I have a smattering of MAXX issues. I've been meaning to stalk eBay for a complete set of MAXX.

I remember buying the first few issues of MAX when it first came out and just feeling confused. Sam Keith had this totally bad ass looking character and made him into a bum. It was the antithesis of the Image style steroid fueled superheroics of the time.

Great review Geoff. This should be a fun series of reviews.

Incidentally, I still have the complete MAXX series on VHS. It was released in a single volume in the mid-90's. I always thought the show was pretty amazing. From what I can tell it may be the single most faithful comic adaptation ever committed to celluloid.

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